Nothing New on Race Day – Part 1 What to Wear!
Nothing new on race day is a mantra of half marathon and marathon coaches everywhere! I heard a new and better version this weekend from Janet Hamilton, an exercise physiologist, fabulous running coach, and coach of coaches. She says “Nothing new in or on your body on race day!” Well said. This means nothing new; not the fancy gel packet you found at the expo but never tried in training, not the sweet neon shorts you bought at the running store last week, not the fried egg and cheese sandwich that your running buddy swears is her good luck meal! Nothing new. We’ll talk very soon about what to eat, drink, and think in the days leading up to and including your long workouts and race. However, since our weather in Columbus, Ohio in March is looking and feeling more like June, I want to start with clothing.
Technical Clothing – What could possibly be technical about clothing?
First and foremost, DO NOT WEAR COTTON. Just don’t do it. Cotton is a fabulous natural fiber for many things, but it is not “The fabric of our running lives.” Seriously, cotton starts out loose and cool but it holds onto moisture and does not readily let it go. It doesn’t matter if the moisture is sweat, rain, or the cup of water you just dumped on your head. Moisture is not your friend. Holding moisture close to your body will keep you hot when it is hot and cold when it is cold. It promotes chafing in areas that you didn’t even know existed. Leave the cotton to your post-run outfit.
Technical fabrics are simply any fabric designed to perform a specific function, usually to wick moisture away from your body. Typically they are synthetic, but one of the most runner friendly “technical” fibers out there is wool. Cyclists and fishermen have known this for years and runners are starting to catch up. One nice thing about wool is that it is also naturally antimicrobial, so it does not get stinky! You want the fabric that is closest to your skin to be a technical wicking fabric for all your running apparel – including your shorts/tights, singlet/shirt, socks, sport bra, and any undergarments you wear. The goal, no matter in heat or cold, is to pull that moisture away from your body as fast as possible. You want your body’s internal thermostat and cooling mechanism (sweat and evaporation) to be able to do their proper job and not have clammy wet clothes holding the moisture against your skin.
But isn’t technical gear expensive?
The answer is probably yes, if you are comparing it to the “free” cotton t-shirt you got at your last race. However, since more and more athletes in many sports are recognizing the benefits of technical gear there are many options out there. I would love to say that the only good technical gear is found at specialty running stores, but that simply is not true. You can find many good options at big box stores. Try a few different brands and see what works best for you. I would encourage you to invest in one or two quality pieces that you will most certainly find in a specialty running store. These will most likely become your race day pieces, but you still need to try them out.
Trial by Training
Remember our tag line for today – nothing new … I want you to start trying various running apparel now with the goal of finding your “race outfit.” Sorry guys, it’s still an outfit if you are a man (we can call it your race gear if you want). Once you have found something you think will work, take it out for a trial run on your long run. Make sure it does the job you want it to do -1) does not annoy you in any way 2) does not chafe you anywhere 3) wicks moisture appropriately. If so, it sounds like you may have found your race outfit! If not, try again.
Cold or Hot?
We live in the Mid-West, which means that it should be nice on May 5. Nice to a runner means 45-60 degrees at race time. That may not be what you consider nice if you are on the beach, but runners run their best at this temperature. So, that is the temperature that David and all of us at M3S will be hoping and praying for on race day. However, we will not know until a few days before the race so we have to prepare for a few conditions.
A good rule of thumb is when you are dressing for a run, to dress as if it were 15 degrees warmer than the thermometer reads. This is true for cold weather running AND warm weather running. For warm weather running, you have less to worry about; find a pair of shorts, socks, bra, singlet and you’re ready to go. In cooler temperatures this is harder to figure out, but it means wearing layers that you can remove and add back on as necessary.
Since unfortunately we cannot predict race day temperatures, I would do trial runs in both cool and warm weather gear so that you are prepared for anything come race day.
Enjoy the nice Spring we are having here in Ohio and I can’t wait to see you all in 5 weeks!